Before our move to New Zealand I had never heard of Mt. Taranaki (or alternately known as Mt. Egmont) and despite ample research read little of the region. Most top tourist websites list the North Island’s must see places as the Hobbiton Movie Set, Waitomo glow worm caves, Rotorua and Taupo geothermal areas, etc. For this reason, I had not planned on visiting the Taranaki region until an accommodation deal prompted me to book a long family weekend.
I understand why many tourist and locals skip the area considering it is not the easiest place to reach by car. The drive is out-of-the-way of all major cities sitting on the corner of the North Island’s west coast. It does not have the large ski fields of Mt. Raupahu or the white sandy beaches of the Coromandel. So imagine my surprise when I fell completely in love with the region!
Mount Egmont National Park
During our stay in New Plymouth, we made a last-minute decision to drive the additional hour to the Mt. Edmont National Park. There are two visitors center locations and we chose the one nearest to Dawson’s Falls. The drive offered incredible views of the perfectly shaped volcano appearing to spring up in the middle of otherwise flat farmland.
Once you approach the mountain, the drive climbs steeply through the tree-lined road. Please take caution while driving as the roads are narrow and curvy on this section.
Once we parked at the visitor center, there were helpful maps of available walks and a raised observation deck. The close-up look at the snow-capped volcano and cool crisp air made the trip worth it.
Tongariro National Park’s mountains can be seen in the distance, home to one of New Zealand’s most popular day walks, the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. The mountains made famous by the “Lord of the Rings” movies filming in New Zealand. Did you know that Mt. Taranaki can be seen in a Tom Cruise’s movie “The Last Samurai”? Rumors are Tom Cruise made quite the fuss while gallivanting around New Plymouth and dining at local restaurants.
Dawson Falls Walkway
The Dawson Falls trail entrance is near the visitor center and one of the park’s easier trails. A short five-minute bush walk leads you to the upper viewing area or make your way down to the base of the 18 meter waterfall via stairs.
Here you can climb over rocks to get right up next to the powerful waterfall for photos.
Dawson Falls power station, known to be one of the world’s oldest generators still with continuous operation, is another must-see in the area.
Mt. Taranaki is a backpackers dream with a host of longer walks including the summit climb and around the mountain circuit. These multiple day hikes should only be tackled by highly skilled trampers. I would have loved to have been able to complete the Pouakai Crossing to photograph Mt. Taranaki’s reflection in the Pouakai Tarns pools.
Other shorter walks exist all around the area and can be found on their website.
I consider the Taranaki region to be one of New Zealand’s best kept secrets… well until recently when Lonely Planet named the Taranaki one of their 2017 world’s best regions to visit.